Have you ever encountered something that rattled your soul? Maybe it was a video you watched, or something you read, or a conversation you had. No matter the form, it’s an encounter that reaches deep inside you and grips your being in a way that stops you in your tracks. I had one of those this morning…
I opened my bible to Romans and started reading chapter one. I passed the familiar “not ashamed of the gospel” verse that has been a rallying cry for Christ-followers, especially those currently involved in a hip-hop-based movement simply called the “1-1-Six”. And then I got to verses 18-32. As I first read through this passage, my mind would drift as it often does to things going on in my life right now. But then I came to a phrase that Paul repeats three times that absolutely is rattling my soul today: “God gave them up.” How could this be? God doesn’t give up on us, right? Isn’t that what we’re taught in church? There is a legion of verses throughout the Bible that assure us that God will never leave our side. Chris Tomlin even has a song out now that says the God of angel armies is on our side! So I dug deeper.
Verse 24 says that “therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.” Now, I was taught years ago that if you see the word “therefore” you should look to see what it’s there for. (Horrible play on words, I know…yet very effective.) We’ll come back to that. Paul says the lusts of their hearts involved dishonoring their bodies and worshiping the creation rather than the creator. Think idolatry.
Verse 26 says that “for this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.” Again, we need to investigate what Paul is referring to with the words “for this reason” and “therefore”, but that’s coming. The dishonorable passions were the exchange of natural relations between men and women for those that are “contrary to nature”.
And finally, in verse 28, Paul wraps up the passage with “and since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Here, he provides direct reference to the “cause” of “cause and effect”. And what follows is a detailed description of the qualities of a debased mind:
· Filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice
· Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness
· Gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent (disrespectful), haughty (condescending), boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents
· Foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless
As I read through these descriptions of how God gave them up, I immediately thought about our American culture and how well this describes us. But God had a very different reason for leading me to these verses. He wanted to pierce my soul and rattle me with a mirror to image the condition of my heart for me to see. Not a fun thing…but necessary. He reminded me to check on the “therefore”, so I slowly read and re-read verses 18-23. And verse 21 stopped me in my tracks: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” #Boom! It was as if God had dropped a bunker buster bomb from 20,000 feet into the depths of my soul. Do I, or have I been, honoring God in my life? With my finances, my work, my kids, my relationships, my words, my thoughts? It continues… “Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal men and birds and animals and reptiles.” What idols have I placed in my life? And then the second bomb dropped: What if God were to give me up? What if, through my dishonoring Him, I pushed Him to the point where He said, “Here…you obviously know what you want, and that it isn’t me. So, I’m letting you pursue what you really desire”? Now, it’s incredibly comforting to know that if He were to give us up to these things, like the prodigal son’s father, God is waiting with arms spread wide and ready to run to us, welcoming us back home. God may give us up, but He will never give up on us.
My soul has been rattled today with these words. Do I honor God with every aspect of my life or is He on the brink of giving me up?